Links You’ll Want
One of the real joys of reading a lot of crime fiction is the chance to discover new-to-me authors. That’s part of why I really like being a part of the New (to Me, Anyway) Author meme hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise. And I’ve been especially lucky in that regard this year, because I was privileged to be on the panel for the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards for Best Novel. That gave me the opportunity to ‘meet’ several authors whose work I didn’t know.
My choice for this quarter is one of those authors, Edmund Bohan. Among other things (he’s a well-regarded singer, for instance), Bohan is an historian with expertise in 19th Century New Zealand history, especially its political history. He has also written fiction, both for young adults and for adult readers. And that’s how I ‘met’ him – through his Inspector O’Rorke historical crime fiction series.
This is a six-novel historical (late 1800s) series (thus far) beginning with The Opawa Affair, and features Inspector Patrick O’Rorke. Based mostly in Christchurch, O’Rorke also travels occasionally, and this series explores several places in the course of the novels.
Oddly enough, my introduction to Bohan’s work began with his sixth O’Rorke novel, The Lost Taonga. In that novel, real life geologist Julian von Haast is unwittingly duped into leading a group of thieves, including Countess Margarita Szechnyi and her partner in crime, Boyland (‘the Collector) to a sacred burial cave on New Zealand’s South Island. The idea is that they will see the artefacts in the cave, but not disturb them. That’s not what the thieves have in mind, though, and they later go back to the cave and steal some of the treasure.
As you can imagine, this outrages the local group of Māori. So, when there’s a murder, it looks as though they are responsible. But it’s not as simple as that. Inspector O’Rorke gets involved in the investigation of the murder and of the theft of the treasure, and the trail leads from New Zealand to Chile to Europe.
Unfortunately the O’Rorke novels aren’t that easy to find in the US or the UK. But there are some online places to find them.
Want to learn more about Edmund Bohan? There’s interesting information right here.
Want to learn more about The Lost Taonga. It’s right here.
NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Dave Dobbyn’s Loyal.
I’m working on a novel at the moment (not one of my Joel Williams novels). Like any other author, I want my book to be the best it can be. And, if I’m being honest, I’d also like it to be a book that will get interest (and, ahem, sales). So, I thought it might be a smart idea to get some expert assistance from a professional editor. I heard a lot of good things about Mary Gold, so I contacted her. She invited me to send her my manuscript, and then we made an appointment.
She was ready for me when I got to her office and greeted me with a warm smile and a handshake. ‘Have a seat and we’ll chat,’ she said.
‘Thank you,’ I smiled back as I sat down. It was an attractive office. Her desk and the matching bookcase on the opposite wall were light teak, set off with comfortable light blue leather chairs.
‘Now,’ Mary said, ‘Let’s talk about your book. It’s a crime novel, right?’
‘Yes, that’s my genre.’
‘Well, that might be a bit of a problem.’
‘It’s just that some readers object to violence in their novels, and a crime novel usually has some violence in it. I mean, yours has a murder right at the beginning.’
‘That’s true, but it isn’t a brutal murder. There’s no gore at all.’
‘Hmmm…that’s true, I suppose. Let’s just keep that to one side for now. But you might want to think about it. We don’t want readers getting offended. If that happens, you won’t be able to sell your book. It might even be challenged.’
I nodded. I certainly don’t want to be offensive.
‘For now,’ Mary continued, ‘Let’s focus on a few other things. Your detective, for instance.’
‘I’m glad you mentioned her. I have to admit, I like her.’
‘She is interesting, but, you know, she might not, well, fit in with what readers want.’
‘She doesn’t, you know, lead a conventional lifestyle. People could easily get offended by a character who’s, well…’
‘Gay? There’ve been gay characters in crime fiction for decades.’
‘Yes, but there are people who don’t like that. If you want your book to get out there, you might want to reconsider her a little. I mean, you don’t want your book to be challenged.’
‘They’d challenge my book for that?’
Mary shrugged and raised her eyebrows meaningfully. Then she looked back down at her notes. By this time, I was beginning to wonder whether I’d made the right decision to meet with her, but I decided to be patient for just a bit longer.
After a moment, Mary looked back up at me. ‘Another thing I’m concerned about is the fact that there is profanity in your manuscript.’
‘There are a few choice words,’ I said. ‘But I don’t think it’s overdone.’
‘Still, there are people who don’t want any curse words. And it does send the wrong message to younger readers. You’ll want to do something about that.’
Now I strongly suspected that I’d made the wrong decision. ‘Is there anything else you think I might want to reconsider?’
‘Glad you asked,’ she said. ‘It’s that scene near the beginning of the novel. The one where the two teens see your murder victim?’
‘Oh, yes, I know the scene you mean.’
‘I don’t think it’ll work. These are young people who should be in school, not driving around. And one of them lights a cigarette! You know, your book might easily be challenged over that. Do you really want to take that chance?’
‘Why would I get challenged?’
‘Well, think of the message it sends. Kids running around instead of being in school, glorifying smoking. You see my point, don’t you?’
I didn’t. ‘To be perfectly honest,’ I said, ‘I was hoping to get your input on the story quality.’
‘Oh, the story? It’s great! A few tweaks here and there, but the idea’s terrific.’
‘It’s just that you need to be sure it’ll be out there, and not banned, so people can read it. You have to be careful about that sort of thing.’
‘But if I change the story the way you suggest, it won’t be the same story – the one I want to tell.’
‘Yes, but it’ll be out there. People will read it. Don’t you want to make sales?’
‘I do, of course. It’s just that –’
‘Then you need to write something that can’t possibly offend anyone.’
That was enough for me. I thanked Mary for her time and told her I’d be in touch. I probably won’t.
This week is Banned Books Week in the United States. And, while this story is made up, challenging and banning books is not. Book banning limits ideas. And that hurts all of us.
If you’re a reader, book banning restricts your access to reading material, and you don’t even get to make that choice for yourself. Someone else gets to decide what you may and may not read. If you’re a writer, book banning can restrict what you write about and how you write. This cuts off communication between reader and writer. That hurts all of us, too.
Those of you who are kind enough to read my blog regularly know that I do a post about book banning every year about this time. And I’m going to keep doing that until I don’t have to any more.
One of the challenges that writers face is where to start as they create their stories. Do you start by creating the characters? The setting? Of course, part of it depends on the sort of story you’re creating. And part of it depends on the genre you write. And then there’s individual preferences, too.
I’m privileged and excited that writer and fellow blogger Benjamin Thomas has invited me to visit his blog The Writing Train to talk about how I get started when I write my own stories. Please pay me a visit there and find out where I start. And as you’ll be there anyway, you’ll want to check out Benjamin’s site. It’s full of all sorts of ideas and wisdom for writers.
*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Mark Sholtez.
I’m sorry I’m not here at the moment. I’m visiting crime writer and fellow blogger Sue Coletta today. She’s not just a talented author; she’s also got a rich blog that’s full of fascinating information for crime writers and those interested in real-life crime.
As if that’s not enough, she’s helping me with a new, fun project I’m working on. I’m really excited about it, and I hope you will be, too. I’m hoping some of you will want to be a part of it.
Please pay me a visit at Sue’s where I’ll be talking about my project. And while you’re there, do look around Sue’s blog. It’s a must-stop on my blog rounds, and I recommend it for yours, too. You’ll also want to read her books.